ripping on a table saw, besides good quality features,
like belt drive, cast iron top, etc., the most important
is a good fence. You want a fence that is solid and
consistently true, without constantly adjusting it.
I'd try to get a good contractor's saw for a couple
of hundred less than your top end budget---good, name
brand. Then, if time proves the fence a pain, use your
extra money towards a good after-market fence. Biesemeyer,
Unifence, Incra are probably the three most popular.
A good fence can make even a marginal saw a great tool.
If you do some exploring at a good woodworkers/tool
store, you can certainly test out the fences on various
saws. However, for a fair comparison, someone will have
had to set the thing up right. This is more likely to
have happened where the store personnel know something
about tools. Good luck.
will find that a tablesaw is the most useful tool you
could ever have in your shop. The amount of work it
does is phenomenal. There are a good number of quite
adequate saws that fall under the $800 mark. You might
also want to consider a used or reconditioned saw. It's
a good way to get a lot more bang for your buck.
- Chris Moore
a year age I purchased a Dewalt DW 746 TS with a mobile
base for around $900. Have been very satisfied with
it so far. It is better than a contractor's saw in that
the motor is under the table, not hanging off the back.
This allows for storage closer to the wall. It is also
not as expensive as a cabinet model.
not advocating anyone buy a benchtop, but... (there's
always a but)...
Many years ago, I had no saw and a very restricted budget.
After several months of moaning and complaining, LOML
finally approved the (limited) funding for a saw. I
purchased a Makita with stand. I still have that saw,
and I've made some wonderful things with it over the
last 17 years. Yes, it does restrict what you can do,
so you learn to do things in other ways. For example,
you can't cut sheet goods with a benchtop, so you learn
how to do it well using a skill saw and straight edge.
You can't get a really keen edge when ripping, so you
learn how to use a hand plane to dress the edge.
The point is, you make due as best you can with what
you've got. If its gotta be a benchtop, then take your
time, shop around and find the best benchtop saw for
your money. Then enjoy what you have, work safe, and
I would not recommend a bench saw, it's your money and
decision. If I were to buy a bench saw, I would not
pay much more than $200. (I never have figured out why
anybody would buy the Dewalt or Bosch table tops for
$500. The kicker is, the Dewalt only uses 13 amps.)
Here's my advice: Don't buy any saw that runs on less
than 15 amps. I believe the Delta is 15. If the stand
for that saw costs more than $50,pass on it. You would
do best either building your own,with extensions or
buy one of those aftermarket jobs that have extension
tables. Make sure you have a heavy-duty extension cord,anything
smaller than 12 gauge will not give full power. If you
can,keep the extension cord to 25 feet.
Now a word of warning: I agree with every other comment
about saving your money to buy a contractor saw, later,
or if you can find a deal on a used one, go for it.
You have to remember,contractor saws use induction motors,
drive belts and are heavier-duty. It's not that hard
to repair a contractor saw, a new motor can be gotten
for $200 or less. On a benchtop, they use direct drive
universal motors. Once you blow the motor, and you will,
it will be cheaper to replace the whole machine than
the motor. A good quality contractor saw will last a
lifetime. You will be lucky if you get five years out
of the benchtop saw.
Bosch sabre saw, a straight edge, some clamps, and a
plane got me a long way until I was able to buy a contractor
saw. Just remember that this is a tool that you will
have for a long time, and this is one tool that you
don't want to skimp on. If you need to wait another
6 months to one year or more until you can buy a contractors
saw, I would do it. If you need the portability or don't
have the room for a full size saw, then that changes
things a little.
recently purchased a Jet saw and I'm very happy with
As a guide to any saw purchase you need to consider
the following. (This is aimed at old methane gas like
myself where money is of little consequence.):
Do you have 230 Volt single phase or 208 Volt three
phase available where you are going to use the saw?
If not, skip the cabinet saws. They all (except one
Grizzly) require either 3 phase (3 and 5 HP motors)
or 230 Volts (3 HP motors). The Grizzly needs a 30 Amp
115 Volt circuit. (I've never seen one and it will have
to be wired using at least 10 gauge wire.)
Typically the next level of saw is called a 'Contractor's'
saw. The professional usually takes this saw to long-term
job sites. These saws are usually wired for 115 Volts,
single phase, by the factory although they may be rewired
for 230 Volts. These saws are usually 1 or 1-1/2 HP.
The vast majority of these saws are very similar except
for fences and table extensions. You can get almost
any fence system on these saws which may increase the
cost by as much as 66%. (Don't worry, you receive value
for your money.) There are two types of table extensions
for these saws, stamped steel or cast iron. (The Rigdid
has an aluminum system for the wings. You can see what
I'm talking about at Home Depot.)
The next level of saw is also a contractor's saw but
it is a bench saw. This model is usually placed on a
bench for use. This saw is different from the above
saws in that the saw blade is usually attached directly
to the motor shaft. (The others use an induction motor,
<$$$> belt drive and pulleys.) This motor is usually
a "Universal" motor and uses brushes. This type of saw
is usually found in the back of a contractor's pickup
truck and used at every job site. These saws are frequently
abused both while cutting and while bouncing in the
What I think that you should look for is the middle
group of saws. These saws are usually used by the home
woodworker and some professionals. Usually, the decision
factor is the voltage available. (Mine would have been
a cabinet saw except that to put 230 Volts in my garage
would have been an $8000 bill! A very long story.)
My personal path to selecting a saw was to decide upon
the fence system first. Then buy the saw that would
accept the fence system. Another requirement of mine
was cast iron table extensions. (More weight and more
stability.) That narrowed the field down considerably.
Between the Delta and the Jet contractor's saws, there
is little difference other than the paint color.
My advice to anybody planning a table saw purchase is
to select the fence system that you really like. Then
purchase the saw that fits the fence system. Lou Williams
(a frequent Forums participant) has had a Biesemeyer
for 15 years or so. Others love their Unifence or Xacta
Fence and I'm happy with my Incra. There are other fence
systems that I've no experience with and you may want
to investigate those systems. The point is to select
the fence that fits your style of work and then the
saw. I think that if you follow this path you'll be
much happier with your final selection.
Jet, Delta, Powermatic, General make very similar contractor
saws. They are all based on a design that was a Delta
saw in the first place. The difference is what option/model/cost
is right for the user.
Brand names don't have much real value. Some companies
have better service than others, some companies offer
better sales but that is about the only difference between
this class of saw. Buy whatever one you like. Once you
find the model option that is right for you then find
the best deal. For some people that would be to spend
more money and buy from a local store that will support
you and get the parts accessories or advice when you
want it. For others that will be the lowest price from
some internet supplier on the other side of the country.
It is up to you.
need to make a career of going to garage sales until
you find an $800 saw for $200. I missed (by 15 minutes)
getting a 1940 something Delta Unisaw for $75 last week.
Ever heard a grown man whimper?
- John in Chicago
comes a time in everyone's life, when he/she must back
the family car out of the driveway, and begin the slow,
careful drive through the neighbourhood, learning to
safely navigate a somewhat intimidating piece of machinery.
The table saw isn't much different. It can be very intimidating
at first, but as you use it more and more, you become
confident in your abilities and more comfortable.
Most table saw accidents don't happen with beginners.
More often than not, it's complacency that sets in over
time and experience, over confidence (I done this thousands
of times) and thus, a lack of attention to safety and
Before you make each and every cut, both now, and 20
years from now, stop, take a second to speak the words
'Safety First' and give it one more quick visual survey.
If you practice this now, it will become habit.
Don't try to do it all at once, from the beginning.
Only after you've had a chance to learn (and do) the
basics with your new saw, to increase your confidence
and comfort level, should you go back to the books,
learn additional ways to improve on those skills, build
jigs to get even more from your saw, etc. One step at
you have never used a tablesaw before, I would suggest
you find someone that will show you. A lot of issues
you simply can not read about in books.
fence is more important than saw. Buy a good, middle
grade contractors saw and upgrade the fence to an Incra
TS-III. You won't regret it.
only so much reading you can do before it just becomes
a mass of jumbled irrelevant information.
If you can't find someone who has a TS who can help
you out and you still desire to read more then here's
a few titles. Two different books with the same name,
but different authors: "The Table Saw Book." One author's
name is Cristoforo. I can't remember the other author's
name, but the book is published by Taunton Press. Another
good one is called, "Table Saw Basics." The last one
has plans for pushsticks, feather boards, outfeed tables,
All three of these should be available at your local
library. I suggest you buy at least one TS book for
future reference. You will find that once you have the
TS set up and in use that is when you will want to refer
back to instructional books.
with a good table saw...as you can't get by without
one. Make sure that the fence is accurate... meaning
that all you need to do is slide it to 24" and lock
it down... without worrying about the measurement or
whether it's parallel to the blade. Make sure that you
can rip 24" using the fence. Get some board buddies
or a similar device for holding down stock and get a
[used to keep smaller pieces of
stock (board) pressed firmly against your table saw
or router's fence] or two and a push stick (get
a kit that has all).
- Robert Walker
heart of every good wood working shop is a good table
saw. Buying used one is a viable choice. A well-made
saw is going to last for YEARS. Shop wisely. Good hand
tools are also important so don't cheap those out either.
a lot of money for a solid cabinet table saw: minimum
3hp and 220V. Make sure it has a rock solid fence with
ZERO flex and ZERO deflection. Buy the very best carbide
blades...at least 2 with 40-60 tooth, which competitive
tests have shown produce the smoothest cuts. (Forget
the combo blades that usually come with the table saw...only
use those for cutting 2x4's, or scrap.)
- C. Scott
key areas in a table saw is the fence. Can it be set
accurately. What's the motor size?. Can you cut 8/4
oak? Take your time and look around.
table saw is the cornerstone of your shop. Any serious
woodworker will tell you to avoid a bench saw, you can
never be as accurate as you need to be. If you have
been pricing wood, as well as tools, you know how important
it is to have a powerful, accurate saw. Power and accessories
are certainly important factors to keep in mind. Bench
saws are very limited. Think long term; dado sets, upgraded
miter gauge, extension tables, outfeed tables, etc.
good table saw is a must. And if you have time to search
there are a lot of good buys in the used department.
There are a lot of older Unisaws and Powermatics out
there for the right price providing you have some knowledge
about machinery. For advice, the woodworking Forums
and the woodweb.com
are both good places to start.
at a woodworking show, I realized that a saw purchase
is really two purchases; the table saw and the fence system.
And in reality the fence system is really the first decision…with
the table saw second. While wandering about this woodworking
show, the importance for the largest cast iron table top
became obvious. Also, I don't expect to be cutting sheet
material exactly and precisely in half at 48" so a 32"
fence system is good for now. What is important to me
is the ability to perform cuts that are repeatable and
very precisely repeatable.
Your tablesaw is the core of your shop. Bench saws are
toys. Save your pennies and get a better saw. If you're
serious about woodworking you won't regret it. Most
woodworkers also invest in a "better" fence somewhere
along the line. If not when they buy the tablesaw initially
then when they outgrow 'em. I was a carpenter as a young
man and after about a 12 year lapse got a bench saw.
Couldn't understand why nothing seemed to come out right.
Figured I'd lost my "touch". Gave it away to a friend
when I moved. About 15 years after *THAT* I got a contractors
saw and suddenly discovered my "touch" was better than
ever! With the addition of my new fence, I'm doing what
I think is very good work. Others must think so too
as they're paying me to do it!
I don't think everyone has to buy a contractor saw to
be a happy woodworker. Not knowing your financial situation,
my advice would be to buy as good a saw as you can afford.
Given, a $100 to $300 benchtop saw isn't as powerful
or even as durable as a $400 to $800 contractor saw,
but if I had to wait until I could afford to throw $400
or $500 into a saw plus all the other stuff needed to
get started, I might not ever have gotten into woodworking.
Start with what you can afford, and move up when you
get a little more experience and feel for what kind
of tool you need. Heck, I still have my first benchtop
saw to use when my primary tablesaw is set up for a
specific cut and I don't want to change it, so I don't
think that first hundred bucks was wasted at all.